Running with Skin Cancer

This is a bit of a brave post and I have debating for all of the summer months about posting it. In 2012, I was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma (skin cancer) and Actinic Keratosis (pre-cancerous skin cancer). Whilst basal cell carcinoma is one of the easiest skin cancers to treat, I had let is fester under my eye for too long and it had grown deeper.  If left it any longer, I was in danger of it spreading and it affecting my eye sight, and I required Mohs surgery.  I’ve never really blogged about it before.  I guess I’ve treated it a bit like a dirty secret.

So far, I have had 5 treatments on my face, and one on my arm – most of the treatments have been for Actinic Keratosis (pre-cancerous cells that turn into Squamous cell carcinoma’s). For these treatments, I have had to apply an anti-cancer drug to the area before sleep. The cream burns out and kills the cells which gave me terrible burns to my skin including open wounds.  At the end of the treatment, my skin was burnt and red raw. Yes, I have good make up for running (don’t judge me! 😊) so it’s difficult to spot unless its pointed out. I am also lucky to have had a fantastic consultant and have to regularly go back for checkups.

Unfortunately, the cream hasn’t worked on many occasions and I have had to have Photodynamic therapy which consists of initial treatment of cream to kill the cancer cells, this is then followed by a special light treatment which reacts with the cream to kill the cancer cells. This treatment was excruciatingly painful (think about the shuddery feeling of putting your foot in a boiling hot bath  – but leaving it there for 15 minutes).

Skin cancer is real, but it is preventable. Roughly 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultra violet radiations from the sun.  I lived in Australia for a year and didn’t think skin cancer would happen to me, and would regularly sit in the sun without any sun factor.  Shamefully, as a teenager, I used to lather myself up with baby oil and just bake until I was burnt to a crisp. I naively thought I would eventually end up with a golden tan like my friends.  Half of my family are pale, Scottish and freckly so this wasn’t ever going to happen!

Cancer is scary and unpleasant, it’s also really emotionally draining. This hasn’t been an easy post to share but If this post has just reached one person in using sunblock and using sun preventative measures, I have saved one person some sun damage.

My relationship with the sun is complicated. I love soaking up its warmth and energy, but obviously have to be really careful.  The sun does like to leave its mark – age spots, tan lines, painful burns – to name but a few. There are, of course, reasons to be wary, especially if you’re logging lots of summer miles. But you might be surprised to learn that running in the sun also does your body good..

There’s something about the sunshine that makes us happy. Our mood is better, we feel more positive – making the sunshine vital to our mental and physical health, but we should also know when enough is enough. Here are a few tips to staying safe in the sun…

  1. Certain medication can make you sensitive to the sun. Most topical and oral medications, including those for acne, high blood pressure and birth control can make your skin more sensitive to the sun.
  2. Wear a hat or join the #visorclub to prevent sun damage. You won’t catch me without my visor in the summer, I feel naked without it. Also UV – blocking sunglasses are a must – polarised lenses help beat the glare.
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Follow me to the Visor Club

 

  1. Use Sun protection. Bit of an obvious one but a lot of runners won’t wear sunblock due to the stickiness and how much they can make you sweat, so its worth investing in a sports sunscreen which is lighter in texture and less occlusive. I use Neutrogena Ultra sheer, dry touch lotion, factor 55 and it goes on really lightly and isn’t sticky at all.  Gents- Don’t forget to do the rim of your ears and the top of your scalp if you have thinning hair.  If you are able to purchase a travel size, you can keep this in your hydration pack or waist band.
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I can’t run without this

 

  1. Run when the sun is less intense. Generally, the sun us at its strongest between 10am and 4pm, if you train during those hours, find somewhere shady to run.
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You can always find a shady trail run

 

  1. Do your checks regularly. If you spend a lot of time outside, its important that you check for irregular moles or spots which are there for a long time, suddenly appear or become itchy. It’s always worth getting a second opinion by a Doctor if you are unsure.

Taking these small steps is a no brainer. Not only can they extend your running, they can extend your life.

May your miles be long and your injuries few

Kezza x

 

 

 

 

 

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Running with Asthma

Since running, I have really noticed how bad my asthma is in the cold. In fact, it’s been so bad that I took the time to research whether other runners were feeling the same. Turns out, they were, and I soon discovered that there was a common theme occurring. I was not alone.

I didn’t get diagnosed with asthma until I was in my early twenties and it has never posed me any issues. That was until I started running. This January I’ve come down with Pneumonia for the second time in two years. Unfortunately, I believe this has been caused by running in the bitter cold. The freezing cold air is absolutely no good for my lungs and this is a hard pill to swallow. Will I run on the ‘dreadmill’ for colder runs? I just can’t see it. I love the outdoors too much. I can’t think of anything worse than running and not seeing new things and not actually going anywhere!

Winterrunning

Running Free!

Will asthma stop me doing the things I love – absolutely not. Asthma UK have actually said ‘Exercise, including cardio vascular exercise like running has amazing benefits for everyone’s health. this includes improving how the lungs actually work. In fact, Jo Pavey is an advocate for running with asthma and says ‘Being fit has improved my asthma so much. When I was at University and not doing much running, I would really struggle for breath going uphill. That just doesn’t happen when I am looking after my fitness’

As well as Jo Pavey, Paula Radcliffe was also diagnosed with exercise induced asthma as the age of fourteen, so it is not impossible to excel at sports because you have asthma. Worth remembering!

For me, I am going to have to ease back into running gently. Unfortunately, cold weather does trigger asthma symptoms because cold air can irritate the airways. I have tried running with a buff – this has helped to warm the air to my lungs beforehand. Asthma UK have initiated the ‘#Scarfie’ and they are encouraging asthma sufferers to wear a scarf over their mouth -www.asthma.org.uk/scarfie

Luckily, I have never been in a position where I have had an asthma attack, but symptoms to be mindful of are;

  1. A) Wheezing and coughing
  2. B) Gasping for air
  3. C) Tightness in the chest
  4. D) Having trouble speaking short sentences

There are many things you can do to look after yourself if you have asthma.

  1. A) Take your inhalers. . You can take their inhalers before they leave for their runs to ease the symptoms of asthma
  2. B) In the summer, Pollen can trigger asthma so run early in the morning before the pollen count is high
  3. C) Warm up your lungs! Running for a few short minutes before your run will help. A few quick spurts will warm up your lungs for your main run.
  4. D) Use a scarf over your mouth to warm up your lungs
  5. E) Carry your inhaler – you know this makes sense!
  6. F) Consider carrying around an ‘ICE’ tag (in case of emergencies tag).
  7. G) Tell people about your asthma and what they should do if you were to have an attack.
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#scarfie

The key is if you are looking after your symptoms well, you can enjoy any kind of exercise including running. Unfortunately living in the UK means that if you have asthma, you must be extra cautious, especially in the winter months.

If you need further advice on asthma, its worth visiting the asthma UK official website (www.asthma.org.uk).

May your miles be long and your injuries few

Kezza x